Victim who paid with her life

Homes scandal: Buckinghamshire made `serious mistakes' over complaints about treatment of patients
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The Independent Online
JANET WARD is not alive today to benefit from the 95 recommendations laid down by Tom Burgner and his inquiry team. She died in 1996 at the age of 28.

Ms Ward was epileptic and had learning disabilities. The official cause of her death was a seizure. But her sister, Pauline Hennessey, believes Janet never really recovered from abuse at the hands of Gordon Rowe.

If Rowe had not killed himself, he would have faced a string of rape charges that would have laid bare the harsh, bullying and abusive regime of his two Buckinghamshire homes.

Janet Ward would have probably given evidence. Her sister believes she would have proved a most reliable witness over the rape allegations.

Ms Ward believed Rowe when he said he was her boyfriend: "She would say, `Gordon said he loved me. Why did he hurt me?' "

Eventually, the young woman's health began to deteriorate. She became disruptive and unable to speak. Her family removed her from the home only to discover several months later that she had been abused.

This devastating blow came just two days before The Independent revealed that Buckinghamshire social services had kept secret a damning report into the running of the two Longcare homes.

Mrs Hennessey, 36, from Halstead, Essex, still believes that the inquiry should have investigated Buckinghamshire's initial decision to grant Rowe a licence despite the fact that there were serious question marks over his name.

But as far as it goes, Pauline Hennessey is pleased at the conclusions of an inquiry she feared would be a whitewash. "But it's important that the recommendations are acted on and followed through," she said.

"Those victims suffered for anything up to 10 years. My one wish is for us to learn from it. Let's prevent it happening to other people."

Many of the families are still in touch through the support group Justice for Longcare Survivors, which Mrs Hennessey helped set up.

"I think a lot of them are so wrapped up with the injustice and picking up the pieces, I don't think they've had time to reflect really," she said.

"In my case, it's a question of trying not to think about it and doing something about it instead. I'm fighting, but I can't think about the things they did to Janet. It just makes me go cold.

"The fact that they let it continue is what really upsets me, when they could have stopped it so much earlier."

One final annoyance remains. The families were appalled when they were told they could not attend yesterday's unveiling of the report.

"Yet again, it's a classic example of the way Buckinghamshire treat the parents," she said.

"I believe that if Buckinghamshire had said that they were sorry and admitted some responsibility for what happened, most of us wouldn't have taken it further. It was the sheer arrogance. Even after they [Angela Rowe, Lorraine Field and Desmond Tully] were found guilty, they would not say sorry."